With its leaf-shaped trellises, skylights and indoor/outdoor design, the Konoha Mall in Hashimoto, Japan is a prime example of the country’s eco-friendly focus on sustainability and the interconnection between man and nature. The 900,000-square-foot project, designed by the Jerde Partnership and expected to draw six million visitors annually, recently opened for the first time to a crowd of 90,000 people.
The mall is the Jerde Partnership’s 12th project in Japan in 15 years, and their fifth collaboration with developer Fukuoka Jisho. Located adjacent to a large park that houses a shrine surrounded by cherry blossom trees, the beautiful landscape and the population’s general sensitivities toward nature served as the inspiration for building a mall as an eco-leisure destination. According to the Jerde Partnership’s executive vice president, Richard Poulos, this meant focusing on two principals: clientele and context, with eco-leisure representing an organic, ecological experience within the mall itself.
Three major courts make up the structure, with large skylights bringing natural light into the indoor spaces. One end houses discount stores, the other end features a marketplace and the food court is in the center. The juxtaposition of the skylights, positioned in a well, along with the graphic design, creates the impression of light filtering down through a canopy of trees, says Poulos. “Lower ceiling heights along the common area balloon up into this fabulous spiraling ceiling that draws your attention up into the ‘hole’ in the roof.” A third of the mall is outdoors, connected to the structure by a set of doors.
Leaf-shaped trellises, representing a life symbol and inspired by the trees in the adjacent park, are found on the upper levels of the mall. They house solar panels as part of the eco-friendly design. “These solar collectors can either provide energy for the project itself or kick back into the local network,” says Poulos. “The recycling within this project is rather extensive. There’s also rainwater harvesting, which can be used later for irrigation of the landscaping during the more arid time of the year, in addition to a sustainable products checklist, including concrete mixtures and use of products like low-flow plumbing and low-energy lighting.”
Konoha Mall utilizes natural ventilation to save energy and improve indoor air quality, and was built with local and regional materials to cut down on carbon expenditures. The transit-oriented developed is also directly connected to the subway system, reducing the need for automotive transportation.
It’s an ambitious, visually striking project, and just what one should expect from the Jerde Partnership. According to Poulos, the company specializes in creating a rich sensory experience in their projects, which it accomplishes through design and meticulous attention to detail.
“Our firm is very good at understanding the pleasurable emotions that people can have, ranging from being in a very calm, relaxed environment to the ‘Wow!’ effect, where somebody is shocked in a good way, or something at the end causes interest or discovery to pull people through,” he says. “There’s an economic reason to do this. If you psychologically draw people through a project, it’s good from a retail point of view. The three major courts in this mall each have a little bit different feel. We pay attention to creating a variety of emotional responses within a project because the variety is what makes people feel good and causes them to come back. All of our projects have a bold statement or big idea coupled with smaller, more intimate environments so that different people feel differently on different days.”
Konoha Mall combines Japan’s connection to nature with a landscape that lends itself to social interaction. Poulos says this was achieved by creating “subtle spaces where people can gather in a natural way.” The mall is designed to encourage foot traffic, while at the same time allowing for individual and collective space.
“That’s a signature of what we do in our projects,” says Poulos. “Our places are intended to reinforce social gathering in addition to the consumption, and if we can hold people there longer, the consumption is increased. That’s why our projects attract a lot of people.”
Fukuoka Prefecture 819-0031
The Jerde Partnership
913 Ocean Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291